“I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Concerning the branches, the primary thing that one should understand in his study and application of the paragraph (John 15:1-8) is this–Jesus identifies the apostles as the branches. This is critical, particularly as we consider the immediate and remote contexts.
In the text immediately preceding (14:25-31), Jesus concludes chapter 14 with a pronouncement of peace upon the apostles as they prepare to begin their preaching work without the Lord’s immediate presence. In this text Jesus first promises them a helper, namely the Holy Spirit (v 26).
In John 15:9-17, Jesus confirms His love for them and encourages them to “abide” in that love even as they were to “abide” in Him. This is followed by several statements to expect the hatred and rejection of the world (15:18-16:4), including persecution (15:20) and even death (16:2). Jesus again promises them the help of the Holy Spirit (15:26). So what does all this mean?
First, it helps us to put this well-known text into a proper setting. Specifically, Jesus is exhorting His apostles to faithfulness in the hours just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. Thus, it would be a mistake to assume that everything in the text has a general application to those living today (e.g., John 15:7, 16:22-24).
Second, it shows the error of using the vine and branches illustration to validate the religious division manifest in the many and diverse denominational bodies.
I have and keep several scuppernong vines. The branches run long down the wire but remain connected to the vine. Moreover, these branches all look essentially alike. Finally, every branch bears identical fruit to all the other branches in the same vine. Such is not the picture of today’s religious division with its varying and often contradictory doctrines and practices. The “branches” bear no resemblance to one another and the fruit is equally dissimilar.
As noted in yesterday’s study, following Jesus means doing things His way. In like fashion, abiding in Jesus and His word produces the same fruit by which we glorify God.